A dear friend gushed about how a book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—and Keep—Love, by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller, helped her stop picking the wrong guy. She explained it like this — when you’re on a date, stop thinking “does this guy like me?” and start thinking “can this guy help me build an empire?”
The Premise of the book seems to be: healthy attachment > single > unhealthy attachment.
Let me back up. According to this book (and science), when you pair up with someone romantically, chemicals and hormones and zaps of electricity bond you on “a psychological and a physiological level.” You become attached.
If the relationship is nourishing and healthy, loving and makes you feel secure, your attachment to them makes your life better. One of their primary concerns is your well-being, so you’re able to do more and accomplish more. They lift you up. You do the same thing for them and an empire ensues. You become a power couple and you’re probably a happy person.
But if the relationship is draining and unhealthy, not loving, and makes you feel insecure, then you can’t build an empire. Unfortunately, if you’re paired up, you still have the bonding chemicals and hormones and electricity zaps with this person because that’s how science works. You’re attached even if you shouldn’t be and don’t want to be, but giving up on the relationship is physically painful. Chances are good that you’re not that happy.
If you’re single and want to avoid wasting precious empire-building time, before you become attached, you need to group everyone you meet into one of two categories. Ask if this person has a secure or insecure attachment type.
Secure attachment is the type you want to be or to be with. This person wants a healthy attachment to another human being and has the interpersonal skills to navigate relationships. He or she knows how to communicate, how to reassure and how to be comfortable in a partnership. She or he understands that “our need for someone to share our lives with is part of our genetic makeup and has nothing to do with how much we love ourselves or how fulfilled we feel on our own.”
Secures can form an attachment and build a subsequent empire with everyone. They also have a lot of close friendships. The good news is that Secures make up about 50% of the population. Fantastic!
Unfortunately, these people tend to remove themselves from the dating pool pretty quickly because they’re good at life.
Insecures are the other 50% of the population. The Insecures come in different types. There’s the Avoidant Insecure type who values their independence more than a partnership and tends to keep people out and there’s the Anxious Insecure type who needs reassurance and stability.
Unfortunately, because mother nature can be kind of bitchy, Anxious Insecures seem to be attracted to Avoidant Insecures. This is the combination to avoid at all costs because it will only end in despair.
Honestly though, if you’re Insecure, it’s just better to avoid other Insecures altogether, regardless of the distinction. Two Avoidant Insecures fly apart as soon as one sneezes. Two Anxious Insecures have trouble communicating properly and eventually implode.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having an Insecure Attachment, but the key is to understand that about yourself and not set yourself up for failure. Attachment styles are enduring, but you can change them with hard work, introspection and a healthy relationship. Of course, you can only change yourself and not anyone else.
These are the steps the authors recommend to people who have an Insecure Attachment and are dating.
1. Have a clear idea of what it means to be in a relationship and what kind of person has the capacity to make you happy in a relationship.
It always seems to come down to knowing yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone who is content with less tending if you’re not. Understand what makes someone worthy of being let in. If you want a relationship where you feel safe, don’t put up with people who aren’t capable of making you feel that way.
2. Know what attachment styles are and practice figuring out your date’s attachment style.
Remember, flee other Insecures. Shun anyone who sends you mixed signals or uses manipulation tactics.
3. Use effective communication—stating your aspirations and needs early on.
You want to build an empire. Find someone who also wants an empire. Go back to step one if you are unsure of what your empire looks like. Don’t waste time or mental energy on people who can’t help you build. When someone tells you who they are, believe them. That previous sentence is a frequent nugget of advice given on reddit.com/r/relationships.
4. Determine if you have an anxious or avoidant attachment style. There are specific things that you should/should not do and they differ significantly. For instance, if you’re anxious, you might benefit from dating several people at the same time; if you’re avoidant, it’s better to give one person a chance for a longer period.
Oh crap. Personally, I identified strongly with the avoidant and the anxious attachment styles. The authors call this the “fearful” attachment style. I think my answer is probably a combination of the two pieces of advice. Go on more second and third dates with a whole bunch of people. Give several people a chance at the same time. Stop globe-hopping and actually date.
5. Learn to appreciate the Secures of this world. When you find someone secure, don’t dismiss them as boring. Stick around—you may uncover a hidden treasure that will be yours for life.
Oh that I could have read this book years ago. I have been on hundreds of first dates and I remember a few Secures from this pool that I wish I had given a second date to. Lesson learned, Universe.
Self help books are the best. Forward momentum armed with new data points and some much needed hope. Onward!
Here’s a quiz you can take to figure out your attachment style.